Best Things |Smart Phone Use

smartphoneSo many students have smart phones, it’s time to put them to good use! I’ve started asking all my students to bring their phones (if they have one) to their lesson each week.

Here are some of the ways to use them:

  1. Have the student audio record you playing their next piece as you introduce it to them. They can listen to the piece in their home practice to solidify rhythms, notes and rhythms. So make sure to play it correctly! 🙂
  2. Have the student video record you playing their piece with the video directed at your hands. They can see how you facilitate large jumps, tricky fingerings, chords, etc.
  3. You record the student playing their piece. You can use the slow-motion option on the phone to show the student how their hands are moving. Some students don’t realize they have unhealthy habits of stretching awkwardly or playing with flat fingers until they see it for themselves.
  4. Download a free metronome app on the phone (with parental permission) and show the student how to use it.

Please comment below how you use a student’s smart phone in a lesson!


How to Grow Grit

gritWe heard a terrific presentation in our latest local association meeting on “How to Grow Grit: Developing Perseverance in Self, Students, and Studios”. There was so much helpful information on setting goals and developing habits in our students, our studios and ourselves.

Here are a few things I want to particularly remember and implement:

  1. Willpower is a finite resource. Eliminate things that drain willpower from the goal at hand. Focus in on what is important in the lesson and funnel resources there.
  2. Accelerate success by moving a goal so it appears closer. One way to do this in learning a piece is pointing out patterns, or scales, chords and arpeggios the student already has mastered. “Look – you already know half of the piece because this pattern repeats here and here.” Or – “This is the scale you’ve been practicing this past week.”
  3. Change the scope of the problem – make it look smaller and easier (same ideas in #2)
  4. Help the student set cues for practicing – maybe a specific time the student always practices, or walking past the piano with the music already open and ready to go
  5. Give the student autonomy by letting them set their own goals 20% of the time – this could mean the student chooses their own piece or sets their own goal

The presentation was based upon the book “Grit” by Angela Duckworth.

Six Happy Teaching Moments | September 2018

As we move into another year of teaching, I’m grateful to be working with a great group of kids, adults and families. Here were some fun moments from September:

  1. Neighborhood kids biking to piano lessons – I love to see these kids ride up on their bikes
  2. A sweet student drew a picture of me while she was waiting for her brother to take his lesson – a pretty good likeness!
  3. After playing through a new piece for a student, she remarked “Me likey” 🙂
  4. Contacting the composer Jackson Berkey to use his music in a DVD recording of an upcoming student performance for our local association and getting a very kind and thoughtful answer in return, plus lots of new music to peruse! 
  5. Excitement of new practice challenges
  6. A new student practicing three hours in a day!

New Repertoire Recommendation – Jackson Berkey

Our local teachers association runs a Multiple Piano Festival each year, which features duet and ensemble music played by up to 36 students at a time on 12 grand pianos.

This year our older group is performing “Hosanna Down” by composer Jackson Berkey. I reached out to Mr. Berkey to request permission to use our performance of his piece in a DVD. He was very gracious and happy to allow us to do so.

And…he sent me a big stack of duet and solo piano music and recordings to peruse. This is like Christmas for someone like me! I have enjoyed the past week so much listening to Mr. Berkey’s music.

I highly recommend getting acquainted with his works if you are not already. His pieces are beautiful and varied – at times haunting, rhythmic, lyrical, contemplative, dancing, imaginative…He has a huge output of works, not only for piano – his piano works are mainly for advanced musicians.

What a fun surprise to receive this collection of music – it’s been an even better surprise to discover a new composer whose works I love!

What I’m Playing | Billy Joel classical music

After an adult student recently mentioned listening to Billy Joel’s classical music, I knew I had to do some investigating. Like most people, I didn’t know that he composed classical piano music. So I ordered the score on Amazon and began playing.

And fell in love.

The pieces in Fantasies & Delusions, Op. 1-10 are wonderful. The harmonies vary from traditional to modern to very “Billy Joel-style” harmonies. I especially enjoyed the waltzes and the invention, but by far my favorite was the absolutely gorgeous and fun “Air”.I would highly recommend giving this collection a try, either for your advanced students or for yourself.

Best Things | Student Picture Wall

One of the best things in my studio is this picture wall. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Students love getting their picture put on the wall. I think it gives them a sense of being part of a community. Some of the students have their pictures taken with a photo prop or with my dog Sadie or with a duet partner.
  2. Students who are planning to play a duet with another student from the studio can look at the wall to see who they will be playing with. It takes away a little of the unknown when the students are then brought together for their first rehearsal. This is also true of group piano projects or classes.
  3. Students recognize friends/acquaintances they know from daily life. “Hey, I have gymnastics with______!”
  4. It’s a great way to show off projects, recitals and festivals we’ve participated in over the past year.

It’s a great reminder to me of all the people that grace my teaching life each and every week.

Happy Teaching Moments | August 2018

As summer winds down, I’m grateful for the beautiful moments that have graced this month. Here are a few of those moments:

  1. Adult student’s new grand piano. We had such a sweet conversation about having a good instrument to play on and what a difference it makes for motivating practice and enjoying the process.
  2. The Magical Forest group rehearsal and performance. Read my post about it here. 
  3. I had a few students (sibling group) who practiced every day over the summer at their summer vacation home. They went to the nearby college’s music sale and stocked up on music from which they played all summer.
  4. Summer practice chart. The students completely blew my goals for them out of the water and filled to overflowing the gumball machine with time practiced. Read my post about it here. I also love how certain students wanted to draw pictures on the board. 🙂
  5. New students and the new energy they bring to the studio
  6. “Piano” acrostic from studentI hope you have had a happy and productive August!